Along with Brittany Cox, Ian Otto heads up White Rabbit Costuming, a business that sells cosplay costumes and prints.
What inspired you to create White Rabbit Costuming?
After Brittany had been making costumes for a year, she decided that she wanted to try to turn her costuming from an expensive hobby into a business that could at least support its own cost, and hopefully become a profitable venture. I was already handling her in costume at conventions, so we decided to go into business together and start our own LLC.
Which audiences do you intend to target with the venture?
Britt mostly makes videogame based costumes, so our primary audience would be people who make and play videogames. I think there are two clear monetization paths with our business: create and sell prints and costume pieces to people who like videogames and cosplay, or look for sponsorships and commissions from large companies to market their products. General commissions aren't something we're interested in because a) we don't have the facilities to create costumes quickly and easily, b) people generally aren't willing to pay what it costs to make a full costume, and c) working on other peoples' costumes is creatively draining.
Do you see there being different functional groups within the cosplay world (e.g. pros who sell costumes/prints or make paid appearances, those who cosplay with friends only, those who become bloggers/media personalities, etc.), or are most involved cosplayers involved in a bit of everything?
I don't think there's a difference in cosplay groups. Cosplay is a very social activity by it's nature, so cosplayers (in my experience) tend to get along well with each other and help each other out. There are certainly some cosplayers who are interested in turning cosplay into more than a hobby, and those are the people who sell prints and look for sponsorships. At its core though, cosplayers get into costuming because they love making the costumes and they love the characters they portray.
Do you know of anyone else who sells cosplay garb or prints?
Selling prints is fairly common among cosplayers. Yaya Han is probably the best example of this, since she makes most of her money by selling prints and materials through her online store. Vensy recently ran a very successful Kickstarter to start casting and selling wards from League of Legends, and there are plenty of cosplayers who start selling prints of themselves once they get a good library of photos.
When not cosplaying personally, how are people typically involved with the cosplay world (either professionally or recreationally)?
With cosplay (depending on time and IRL obligations) if you're not wearing a costume, you're building your next one. Thanks to facebook, many cosplayers keep in touch with one another either personally or through cosplay groups, often organized by fandom. It's also common for cosplayers to maintain a facebook page as a way of staying in touch with people met at conventions without giving out personal information.
How important is it to differentiate within fandoms (e.g. be seen as an "expert" or "generalist") as a cosplaying team?
Differentiation is usually a matter of costume style rather than a conscious decision to set yourself apart. Some cosplayers like using thermoplastics for their armor pieces, others use foams, some cast, some sew.... There are so many different ways to build the same costume that differentiation mostly depends on how good your costume looks. There aren't really expert or generalist cosplayers.
When you attend a con or event like the Worlds (as a cosplaying team), what are your objectives?
It really depends what event we're going to. At Worlds we were invited by Riot to cosplay in the crowd before the finals started, so we were there to get people excited and generally have a good time. PAX is our biggest convention in terms of audience, so we reveal new costumes there for best exposure. Other cons are just too small to really consider from a business standpoint, but they happen to be local or cheap to attend so we go just to have fun in costume.
Where are the best places to be within an event or con to get maximum coverage? Do you come to events with a game plan?
For a cosplayer, your best coverage is either on the main floor where everyone will pass by, since that's where most of the media people will set up, or go to the booth for your specific fandom--in our case, usually the LoL booth. On the main floor is where the most people will see your costume, and at a booth is where the most people will care about your costume. Our plan at conventions is usually dictated by people we want to see and the mobility of the costumes we bring. If Britt's in Elise she can barely move, so we set up in a high-traffic area or near the League of Legends booth for as long as she can be in costume. If she's in a more mobile costume like Janna, we'll walk all over the convention.